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Johne’s Disease in Cattle Frequently Asked Questions

J-BAS overview

What is Johne’s disease?

Johne’s (pronounced “Yo-nees”) is an infectious bacteria. It’s a serious wasting disease that affects cattle and other ruminants and primarily affects the intestinal tract.

Johne’s disease (JD) bacteria affect animals by causing a thickening of the intestinal wall resulting in a reduction in the absorption of food. The infected animal is hungry and eats, but cannot absorb any nutrients. This results in wasting and finally death. Diarrhea and bottle jaw are also common signs in cattle. It can take many years from first infection to when these signs occur, and animals can shed bacteria in their manure in the meantime.

Who owns J-BAS (Johne’s Beef Assurance Score)?

CCA (Cattle Council Australia) owns the J-BAS tool and is also responsible for national beef cattle industry policy. AHA (Animal Health Australia) manages the tool, based on CCA guidance.

What is a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS)?

J-BAS is a risk profiling tool developed for use in the new approach to Johne’s disease (JD) in beef cattle. The scoring system is from 0 ( being ‘Unmanaged risk’) to 8 (‘High Assurance’). There is also a Dairy Score for dairy
cattle with a similar range of scores. The scores have been developed to allow producers to communicate to buyers of their cattle what JD risk they believe the cattle represent. The voluntary, self-assessed score requires having a biosecurity plan for the property and is based on history of JD on the property and what testing might have been done. Producers should ask further questions if worried about JD, and not just focus on the score alone. There is a checklist on AHA’s website to help with questions that could be asked.

Why was the J-BAS system created?

The new national approach to JD management treats the disease as just one of many that producers must manage within their business. Producers are now more responsible for the implementation and management of an on-farm biosecurity plan and practices (not just for JD), which enables producers to take control over their own productivity and profitability.

Producers are encouraged to make commercial decisions taking into account the risks (and opportunities) associated with the livestock they are thinking of purchasing and selling.

Is J-BAS voluntary or mandatory?

J-BAS is a voluntary tool. It has however, been referenced in WA and NT entry requirements, so is necessary for those markets. Under the new JD Framework (of which J-BAS is a part), each producer is responsible for their own JD risk management and is encouraged to consult a vet.

Is a register of J-BAS herds being kept?

No. J-BAS is a voluntary self-assessed scheme with the associated biosecurity plan being held by the producer.

Does anyone provide training on J-BAS?

There is help with biosecurity planning available, but not on J-BAS specifically. See resources on the JD in Cattle webpage. Vets do not need additional accreditation or training to sign a biosecurity template for producers wishing to maintain a J-BAS score 7 or 8.

A vet must sign that they have discussed biosecurity risks with the producer and will assist in the management of these risks when required. Vets may do the Market Assurance Program training (previously required for CattleMAP) for some general information about JD and the laboratory tests, but it is not essential for J-BAS.  Information for vets can be found at: 

Biosecurity requirements

What happens if I didn’t have a biosecurity plan by 30 June 2017?

Initially, all herds were given a transition score based on the old zoning system. Herds in NSW, Qld, NT and northern SA were given a transition score of J-BAS 7, as were herds known as Beef Only. All herds in WA were given a transition score of J-BAS 8. These transition scores expired on 30 June 2017.

Without a biosecurity plan, herds with a transition score of 7 or 8 became J-BAS 6. Producers who missed the deadline do however, have the opportunity to return to their transition score by implementing a biosecurity plan now (signed by their veterinarian) and conducting the first Check test by 30 June 2018 with clear results. (Herds which have had a clinical case of JD within the last five years are not eligible for the default score of 6 and transitioned to a score 0, 2 or 4 depending on the time since the last clinical case and what’s been done since.)

How is J-BAS being enforced?

J-BAS is a voluntary self-declaration. There is no central authority signing off on plans; however buyers, markets and jurisdictions with entry requirements may request a copy of your Cattle Health Declaration, on-farm biosecurity plan and test results.

What plan do I need to complete in order to meet J-BAS and LPA requirements?

A number of biosecurity plan options are available that meet both the J-BAS and LPA requirements (e.g. Livestock Biosecurity Network’s ‘On-farm Biosecurity Plan Workbook’, the ‘On-Farm Biosecurity Template’ available on AHA and Farm Biosecurity websites, or the Australian Cattle Vet’s ‘BioCheck’). To meet J-BAS requirements any plan can be used, provided it addresses the minimum standards set by the National Farm Biosecurity Reference Manual for Grazing Livestock Production and it includes the JD in Cattle Biosecurity Checklist.

To meet the requirements of LPA, as a minimum each Property Identification Code (PIC) must have a formal, documented Farm Biosecurity Plan that addresses each of the following: (a) Manage and record the introduction and movement of livestock in a way that minimises the risk of introducing and/or spreading infectious diseases; (b) Where reasonable and practicable, control people, equipment and vehicles entering the property, thus minimising the potential for property contamination and, if possible, keep a record of such movements; and (c) Prevent and control animal diseases on-farm by regularly monitoring and managing livestock.

On-farm biosecurity plan

Why should I complete the ‘On-farm biosecurity plan template’?

The most effective way to manage the risk of pests and diseases gaining a foothold on a property is through implementing a biosecurity plan. A biosecurity template covers many activities that you will already be doing on your property as biosecurity precautions, such as regularly inspecting stock and fences. The template is a tool for you to use, so that you start documenting those activities.

You should ideally create an ‘action list’ when doing your plan and aim to make improvements in biosecurity practices where possible throughout the year, and review the plan on an annual basis. A ‘reference documents’ column has been listed in the template, which provides useful resources for establishing a good biosecurity plan. You should store all necessary documentation with your plan (e.g. treatment records, paddock records, etc.) so they are easily accessible; not all the reference documents may be necessary for your operation.

To maintain a score of 7 or 8, the On-farm biosecurity plan template must be signed by a veterinarian. The template on our website meets the requirements for LPA accreditation as well as J-BAS (providing the JD section is completed). It can be found here.

Where do I find a biosecurity plan template?

The On-farm biosecurity plan template has been developed to help producers with writing a plan. This document can be found on the Animal Health Australia website here –

Other acceptable templates exist (e.g., LBN’s template, the vet BioCheck). LPA will be utilising this template, although slightly reduced in size.

How do I fill out the template?

AHA has created a short video outlining 6 easy steps to fill out your on-farm biosecurity plan

If I answer ‘no’ to any of the template questions will this affect my score?

No, the template is a guidance document for you to manage your on-farm biosecurity risks and improve your biosecurity practices. Some elements may not be applicable to your management system. Anything ticked ‘no’ can be improved over the next 12 months and occasionally some issues will be extremely difficult to resolve, but it’s good to record your awareness of them.

Where do I submit my biosecurity plan?

There is no requirement for formal lodging of the plan. It is to be stored somewhere easily accessible so you can refer back to it when required or produce it when requested.

The plan is to assist you in having biosecurity measures in place. The plan is intended to be routinely reviewed so that you can improve your biosecurity practices where required.

What does ‘Vet oversight’ mean?

Veterinary oversight means the vet has given the person filling out the plan advice on biosecurity risks for the property and how best to manage those risks.  The vet’s signature is only intended to say the vet has had the discussion, which could be had by phone, with the signature collected when the producer is next in town. A scanned, emailed version would be OK.

J-BAS Scoring

How do I know what score I should give my cattle?

The scores are based on the likelihood of a herd’s previous exposure to JD and a producer’s preparedness in managing risks. The score sheet can be found here

What score should I aim for in my business?

Many producers may decide that they do not need a score if JD is not a disease that they are worried about with their business. If you are a producer who accesses the WA market or NT market, or are likely to sell cattle to a producer who does, you should aim to meet their entry requirements. Producers should remain JD aware if they intend to access the live export trade.

Why do I need a veterinarian?

For J-BAS 7 and 8, your biosecurity plan must be checked and signed by a veterinarian and have undertaken a ‘Check test’ with negative results. Without veterinary oversight of a plan you will not be eligible for scores 7 or 8. It is not intended for the vet to audit the plan, merely sign to say they’ve explained the JD-related biosecurity risks to you. For anything below J-BAS 7, or for biosecurity planning generally, it is wise but not essential to consult a vet.

Can I introduce cattle from a lower score herd?

Introducing cattle with a lower score may affect your J-BAS unless you are confident that the source herd is low risk and well managed under good biosecurity practices. Introduced animals can be addressed with the biosecurity plan and handled through actions like monitoring them for signs of illness, keeping them separate from vulnerable young cattle on the property and/or testing them (especially if a J-BAS 7 and 8 where some testing is required). Introductions for J-BAS 7 and 8 herds should be discussed with the veterinary advisor before purchasing the animals. Herds selling cattle to WA will need to check with the WA Department for entry requirements.

Mixed livestock producer

What if I’m a mixed livestock producer with cattle? Do I have to have a J-BAS?

Having a J-BAS is voluntary; however producers should consider the benefits of a J-BAS as a tool for managing JD risk and apply it according to the needs of their operation.

If you choose to have a J-BAS, it would only be for your cattle.This said, it’s important all susceptible species on your property are managed for JD (and other important diseases) because JD can spread from species to species.

What tools do I have available to manage JD in multiple species of livestock on my property?

For the sheep sector, the Ovine Johne’s Disease Management Plan (OJDMP) exists. For the cattle sector, the new JD management Framework is in place.

Both programs are industry owned and managed and require producers to be responsible for the health and wellbeing of their own livestock.

Each program includes a range of useful tools, including vaccines and Animal Health Declarations.

Cattle are at minimal risk of contracting JD from sheep on the same property if these sheep are covered by a JD vaccination program.

What if I have had a clinical case in my sheep but not my cattle? What J-BAS can I give my cattle?

As JD affects all susceptible species, a clinical case in sheep has to be considered when deciding a J-BAS for cattle from the same property. Please refer to the J-BAS chart for information on how the J-BAS is decided when taking into account recent clinical cases across species.

As an example, if you had a sheep diagnosed with clinical JD three years ago but nothing since, and you have commenced a Gudair vaccination program in your sheep, you can give your cattle a J-BAS of 4 provided you have an on-farm biosecurity plan in place and meet all other requirements (like identifying and removing all high-risk animals).

As another example, if a clinical case has occurred in any species on the property in the last two years, a J-BAS of 2 can be used provided there is an on-farm biosecurity plan in place and all clinical cases have been removed.

If producers wish, they can implement strategies to manage their cattle herds up to a higher J-BAS by following the guide set out in the J-BAS chart.

What if I just have a milking cow? Is this co-grazing with dairy?

The risk of transferring JD from a milker is very low.  First the milker has to be infected and shedding and then has to graze consistently with beef cattle, which is rarely the case.  Nevertheless, it should be considered when working out risk.

Will quarantining my cattle after purchase help me manage JD?

Quarantining introduced livestock away from resident livestock for a period of several weeks is good biosecurity practice and is strongly encouraged. Unfortunately for JD though, the bacteria can live in the gut of livestock for years before the animals show symptoms, so quarantining is of no benefit for JD management.

Testing for Johne’s Disease

What is a ‘Check test’?

To maintain J-BAS 7 or 8, producers must undertake a ‘Check test’ of samples from at least 50 adult animals within the herd (or in a herd of less than 50, all eligible animals). This test is done every three years for maintaining a score.

Under the new framework for managing JD in beef cattle, producers nationwide have until 30 June 2018 to collect samples for testing if they wish to maintain a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) of 7 or 8 for their herd(s). After that date a Sample Test (of more animals) will be required to progress a herd to J-BAS 7, and two Sample tests to J-BAS 8. For testing, vet involvement is required. For more information on testing, see Johne’s disease testing underpins high assurance scores

What is a sample test?

A sample test involves sampling of a large representation of the adult herd, or the whole herd (if less than 210 animals), by an approved test (pooled faecal culture or pooled faecal HT-J PCR or ELISA [Note the ELISA is not suitable for WA entry requirements]). Any reactors (e.g. positive ELISA results) must then be followed up with another test (faecal culture, or tissue culture and histopathological investigation).

More information can be found in the JD in Cattle Definitions and Guidelines document.

Does vaccination have a role to play in the management of JD on my property? Will vaccinating affect the J-BAS for my cattle?

Vaccination does have a role to play, particularly with sheep and goats. Gudair is available for widespread use in the sheep industry and Silirum is useful in some circumstances within the cattle (particularly dairy) sector. Please note the use of Silirum vaccine in cattle is not permitted in Western Australia at present. Both forms of vaccine have been shown to reduce ‘shedding’ (bacteria being spread through the faeces of infected livestock) and mortalities from JD. While vaccination doesn’t kill the bacteria,  it does reduce their impact, particularly with sheep. Vaccine is the most effective tool available for managing the disease in sheep. Sheep flocks being ‘approved vaccinates’* would mean that the risk of having JD in cattle on the property is low.

In deciding the J-BAS for your cattle, producers should consider the management of JD in all livestock species on the property and particularly take into account when the last clinical case occurred on the property in any species. For example, if no clinical case has occurred within the last five years and an on-farm biosecurity plan has been done (without the need for a vet), a producer can give the herd a J-BAS of 6. On the other hand, if a clinical case has occurred in any species over two years but less than five years ago, a J-BAS of 4 can be applied, provided other conditions are met (see the J-BAS chart).

* Approved Vaccinate:  A sheep that is identified by an NLIS (sheep) ‘V’ tag and is:

  • vaccinated with an approved OJD vaccine by 16 weeks of age, or
  • vaccinated with an approved OJD vaccine after 16 weeks of age, when the flock:
    • was in the SheepMAP, or
    • had undertaken a negative Faecal 350 test in the two years preceding the vaccination, or
    • had a Negative Abattoir 500 status at the time of vaccination.

Purchasing and showing cattle

When buying beef cattle, how can I be sure the J-BAS is accurate?

First, it’s important to have the vendor provide you with a Cattle Health Declaration (CHD) on which the J-BAS (if there is one) is written. The CHD is a legal document and must contain only truthful statements.

Second, the owner who is selling the cattle applies the J-BAS.  If the buyer has concerns around JD, it’s vital they are satisfied with the information on the CHD and, if needed, should contact the seller to ask further questions around how the livestock have been managed. For example, if the ‘co-grazing with sheep &/or dairy cattle?’ question is answered “yes”, the buyer could ask what management plans and vaccinations had been used across the species. This information will help the buyer when assessing JD risk from the cattle being purchased.

Buyers should ideally buy from herds with an equivalent or higher J-BAS. Small percentages of cattle could be introduced from a lower-score herd, but would need to be managed within the property biosecurity plan, which might involve keeping them separate from young cattle on the property and including them in any testing that occurs (required for higher J-BAS levels). Introductions for J-BAS 7 and 8 herds should be discussed with the veterinary advisor before the cattle are purchased. Introducing large numbers of lower-score animals would affect the score and should be factored in when deciding the J-BAS.

Are saleyards a risk for JD?

JD is usually brought onto a property through introducing animals with the infection. As cattle spend little time at saleyards and don’t graze there, they are a very low risk for the spread of JD, except through purchase of infected animals. A buyer interested in avoiding the introduction of JD should ask the seller for the Johne’s Beef Assurance Score of the beef cattle (or Dairy Score of dairy cattle), as well as other animal health information. This may be available on a Cattle Health Declaration (CHD). Buyers should request a CHD from vendors and ask additional questions to be sure any risks from JD are well understood.

How does J-BAS fit in with shows?

The risk for transmission of JD from one animal to another at shows is very low.  The most important JD transmission route is from cow to calf through infected milk or drinking from a contaminated udder.  JD is less commonly transmitted to vulnerable young cattle when grazing infected pastures.  In a show situation cattle are not grazing together and are mostly tethered and hand fed, so the risk of transmission is extremely low.  Biosecurity protocols should be incorporated into exhibition guidelines to prevent transmission of all livestock diseases (some of which are much more easily transmitted than JD at shows).

An exhibitor can indicate they have a particular J-BAS score by filling out the optional J-BAS section on the Cattle Health Declaration (CHD) on entry to the show, if the exhibition organiser requested a CHD be part of the show entry requirements.  While CHDs are voluntary, they can be requested and the answers given must be truthful.

Do I need a Cattle Health Declaration?

Although not mandatory for J-BAS, a Cattle Health Declaration is for use by producers to assess the animal health information about animals they may wish to buy. Some states/territories have mandated its use for cattle entering (NT, SA). It is recommended that the form should be both supplied by the vendor and requested by the buyer for all cattle sales. You can find the form here –

Can I rely on J-BAS when deciding to purchase cattle?

While a J-BAS is the most useful tool for letting buyers know the JD-risk level in cattle, it isn’t the whole story. Buyers should ask questions of the seller (there’s a checklist available to guide this questioning) and take into account what type of JD management the seller is using across all livestock on the source property.

As an example, if: cattle and sheep are grazed on a property; all species are monitored for JD; the producer is engaged in managing OJD, e.g., through the use of Gudair vaccine with sheep – then the risk of having JD in cattle is low. If there have been no clinical cases of JD in any species on the property for over five years, a J-BAS of 6 can be applied to the cattle provided other conditions such as having an on-farm biosecurity plan are met (see the J-BAS chart).

LPA Requirements

What is the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program?

The Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program is the Australian livestock industry’s on-farm assurance program covering food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity. It provides evidence of livestock history and on-farm practices when transferring livestock through the value chain.

Who manages the LPA program?

The Integrity Systems Company, a Meat & Livestock Australia subsidiary, now administers the program on behalf of industry. For more information please see their FAQ:

What are my biosecurity requirements under LPA from 1 October 2017?

First, LPA and J-BAS are separate programs. Second, LPA accredited producers will be required to meet biosecurity and animal welfare requirements from 1 October 2017. Producers who have already developed an on-farm biosecurity plan as part of their approach to Johne’s disease management are not required to complete another:

Is the AHA on-farm biosecurity template suitable for LPA accreditation?

Yes, it is suitable for LPA accreditation as it addresses all the elements of the National Biosecurity Reference Manual – Grazing Livestock Production.

If I do not complete an On-farm Biosecurity plan or have a Johne’s disease case, will this affect my LPA accreditation?

LPA accredited producers must have a biosecurity plan from 1 October 2017, otherwise accreditation will be affected, However a Johne’s disease clinical case will not affect LPA accreditation.

Do I need to indicate my J-BAS score on my LPA NVD?

No, but you are encouraged to use the Cattle Health Declaration to convey your J-BAS score to potential buyers.

Is knowing your J-BAS score a requirement of LPA?


Further information


On-farm biosecurity plan template – For producers to work through, with links to supporting documents to access and fill in as required. An additional action list, outlining biosecurity activities to be undertaken over the next 12 months, would help to make this a robust on-farm biosecurity plan specific to the property

Livestock Biosecurity Network On-farm biosecurity plan template – The On-Farm Biosecurity Plan (including Johne’s Disease) is a template that producers can use to custom-build an on-farm biosecurity plan specific to their property


Cattle Health Declaration – National animal heath declarations are a way for producers to provide information about the animal health status of their flocks and herds. Buyers should ask for a copy and use the information provided to determine the health risks associated with the animals offered for sale

J-BAS assurance score – The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) is a risk profiling tool developed for use in the new approach to Johne’s disease (JD) in beef cattle

Johne’s disease score in Dairy cattle – The dairy industry is promoting the use of the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score and adoption of hygienic calf rearing practices through the 3-Step Calf Plan and/or the Johne’s Disease Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP)


JD in Cattle tools – A number of tools are available for cattle producers to help them prevent JD entering or manage it in their cattle. Animal Health Australia has collated them in one webpage

Everything you need to know about JD in Cattle – With recent changes in the way the disease is managed in Australian cattle, producers, vets or anyone working in the cattle production industry can find all the resources they need right here

Farm biosecurity plan – An on-farm biosecurity plan is a requirement for maintaining a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) and will be a requirement for the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program in the future.

LPA program – All the information you need to know about the new changes under the LPA program [bg_faq-end]



Page reviewed: July 17, 2018